By Nick Charles
May 04, 1998 12:00 PM

On television he was Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford, the extra-large, not terribly quick-witted foil for goody-two-shoes brothers Beaver and Wally Cleaver of Leave It to Beaver. Thirty-four years after the show ended, former actor Frank Bank, 56, is proof that his teenage-doofus routine was very much an act. Revelation No. 1: For 25 years, Bank has been a successful stockbroker. Revelation No. 2: Though never considered a sex symbol in his TV years, Bank claims that, for one long, hedonistic stretch, he was—ready?—the Love Muffin of West L.A.

But more about that in a moment. First, a few words about investing. Bank, who says he learned to handicap horses as a kid and read The Wall Street Journal during breaks on the Beaver set, became a stock-and-bond broker in 1972 by teaching himself “everything there was to know about tax-free bonds.” Within three years of getting started, he says, he was earning $300,000 a year at an L.A.-based company. Even the Beaver, Jerry Mathers, and Barbara Billingsley, who played the show’s matriarch, June Cleaver, put their trust in the Bank. “Frank is certainly brighter than Lumpy Rutherford, and a very good stockbroker,” says long-time client Billingsley.

Long before launching his current career, Bank maintains, he was already engaging in some very un-Lumpy-like activity. In his recent, cowritten autobiography Call Me Lumpy—with refreshing candor, he says that he hasn’t yet read it all—there’s a chapter in which Bank claims that, during the Lumpy years, he lived a life of wine, women and song—with maybe not so much emphasis on the wine and song. “A thousand women,” says Bank. He attributes some of his popularity to his modest screen success, but he chalks up the rest to an era of newfound sexual freedom, the pill and no HIV. Of course he was one of the few guys his age who had money, a car and his own apartment. “It’s the 1960s, the sexual revolution is starting to come into full bloom, and I’m right in the middle of it,” Bank says in the book. His former costars, who know that Bank likes to tell a good tale, are a little surprised by his assertions. “I never pictured Frank as being Don Juan,” says Ken Osmond, better known as Beaver’s ultraweasel, Eddie Haskell. “But I never went on a date with him.” Neither did Billingsley. “I didn’t know he was going around having sex like that,” she says. “I thought they were all innocent boys.”

Eventually, Bank says, after the series got canceled in 1963, the rambling got tiresome. His wanton days waning, he was set to star as comicbook teen Archie Andrews in a series that same year. But the show’s sponsor took one look at the pilot and said, “That’s not Archie, that’s Lumpy.” Bank says he swore off Hollywood there and then: “I didn’t want to be like George Reeves, who could only be Superman.”

Finished, he thought, as an actor, Bank, with his brother Doug, next turned his attention to the family business, a successful meat market owned by his parents, Leonard and Sylvia. His personal life slowed down too. Bank married his high school sweetheart and had two daughters, Julie, now 27, and Kelly, 22. “I wanted normalcy,” says Bank. “I wanted that Cleaver existence.” That lasted 15 years, until Bank met his current wife, Rebecca, who had two daughters of her own, in 1981. “We met at a party and fell in love,” says Rebecca. The two, who share a passion for tournament poker, divorced their respective spouses and immediately married. But Rebecca says that if she had met Bank in his wilder days, “I would never have dated him.”

Distanced from Lumpy for years, Bank returned to television in 1983 in a Beaver Cleaver reunion movie, which spawned a four-year series. These days, as senior vice president of a brokerage firm in Calabasas, Calif., Bank lives in the San Fernando Valley and continues the gin game he and Rebecca started 15 years ago. (He’s up by more than a million points.) Every so often, he admits, he thinks about trying an acting comeback. “I had my 15 minutes of fame 40 years ago,” he says. “But Beaver was a half-hour show. So I’m ready for another 15 minutes.”

Nick Charles

Champ Clark in Los Angeles